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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Gardening in Spandex, Bulging Biceps and Plumber's Butt!

One summer day, while my staff was attending their university graduation ceremonies, I worked alone on the front lawn of a client’s home, fine tuning a garden, partially planted the day before. As I tweaked the plants, a gentleman strolled by and stopped to greet and complimented me on the garden. When I returned with my staff to finish the job the next day, the same gentleman appeared. This time he walked right passed us, did not stop to greet me but averted his eyes from mine, pretending that we were not there. It didn’t take more than a nano-second to figure out why.

The one female member of my crew was wearing a tight string tank top with spandex shorts. Most of her upper body was bare and the shorts left little to the imagination. The gentleman who strolled by is a Hassidic Jew who is not permitted to look upon scantily clad women. Under the circumstances, his belief system obliged him to look the other way. Since I contract a fair amount of work in a neighborhood populated by many Hassidic families, I must ask my staff to be more circumspect in future. I understand that guidelines for modesty of dress might make my staff less comfortable while working. However, the comfort level of clients and their neighbors, who themselves might be prospective clients, must take precedence.

A sort-of-similar situation occurred with a male member of my staff. I arrived at a job site to tame some plants that I had planted a year earlier. The homeowner was away and left instructions with her 20 year old daughter. As she was explaining her family’s needs to me, my assistant walked by carrying a shovel. That’s when I noticed the daughter’s eyes roam away from my face. I could see that they were fixating on the young man’s bulging biceps that were enhanced by his sleeveless T shirt. My employee’s physique had caused the daughter to lose her train of thought and stumble for words. That situation didn’t feel right. It wasn’t professional that one of my workers had drawn attention to his body, albeit innocently.

Consequently, last week when I posted the upcoming season's job on the university’s career website, I added a dress code to the work description. Men and women are not permitted to wear tank tops, string tops, or sleeveless T shirts. Spandex is not acceptable, nor is any kind of skin-tight clothing. Men must wear a belt with their pants or shorts. Why, a belt? Beltless pants have been the number one cause of plumbers’ butt on trim young men, even before pants were re designed. Now that the new pant waistband sits on the hip bone rather than at the waist, this new fashion norm is making a bad situation worse. When my college students bent down to garden, they exposed too much back-side skin and were unable to maintain professional deportment. That’s why a belt is a must. Garden installation may be a dirty, sweaty job but it is still a business situation. It requires professional attire and anything that I can do to improve dress decorum is worth trying.

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Reader Comments (3)

A good point and quite right too Allan - decorum in dress has slipped down the path of good taste. My gardening attire is loose and sensible, designed to blend in with the landscape and especially to hide all the floppy bits that might distract others with less than admiration. Besides, spandex is too hot to work in.

March 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura @ PatioPatch

Hi Allan, I suppose there are some opportunists that would think that spandex in the garden was a good thing. And I think there are probably others who might not mind if a garden vista was blocked by a good looking set of bulging biceps. But if you are a landscape "professional", I can that these modes of dress would certainly be counterproductive.
Even if college kids may have yet to appreciate the challenges of running a landscaping/garden design business, they do understand that times are tough. The smart ones will be grateful just to have the opportunity to dress appropriately.
P.S. I thought that I might mention a minor problem that may possibly discourage return visits to your blog. Usually, I will click on the link in the comments to my own posts to return a visit to the commenter's blog. Your link takes me to a page with no way to get back to your blog.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Before I read the post I was worried the title applied to your own attire and appearance! I approve of your philosophy and practice.

March 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

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